The words are wilted, clammy in my hand
as a bad handshake. I toss them in the Corrib,
watch them drop to the river bed
like mayfly eggs. A fingerling flips
to face the current, stills in its rippling grip, waiting
for what the river might bring her
and swallows it all—the insect nymphs,
the molluscs, the vowels and the consonants.
Three little syllables ease through her gills;
they silver, become anadromous,
develop a tolerance for saltiness.
Take us with you, they whisper, and she does.
Salmon know when it is time
to come back to attend the regatta
of the duns’ newly exposed wings.
They also know how to climb ladders.
Onlookers gather to watch them
take to the air—ejaculatory
as prayers—because a single drop of home
in a million gallons of seawater, is erotic
to them as the breath of a lover.
For this particular fish, it is the limestone,
the lichen of St. Michael’s Well. It is the sperm
of freshwater pearl mussels below the falls.
It is shed feathers of the local heron
and the landing dance of the cormorant,
where the persistent tongue of the river
laps at the lake. She makes for the sweet-spot
where the pink-tipped stamen of the hawthorn
fondles the water—inhales its almond pollen.
May Day dawns and she is barely a glimmer
in a quiet pool near the riverbank,
wary of the fisherman.
My dropped words have softened
and polished in her gullet
the way waves mend sharp edges
of sea-glass. Soon, she will open her mouth
for the fly you have tied—listen,
for the soft splosh
of I love you, as she leaps in the dark.